We’re down to the final days in 2019, so it’s time to identify the best teams and players of the past decade using Football Outsiders metrics: DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) for teams and DYAR (Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement) for players.
DVOA measures success on each play based on down and distance, then compares that to an NFL average baseline adjusted for situation and opponent. (You can read more of the details here.) It’s built to balance a measurement of how well a team has played in the past with a forecast of how well a team will play in the future. Ratings each year are normalized, accounting for changes in the NFL’s offensive environment. Even over just the past decade, the NFL has seen offense increase from 5.33 net yards per play in 2010 to 5.49 net yards in 2019. (That’s down from last year’s peak of 5.60 net yards per play.)
You can find DVOA stats for every season going back to 1986 on the stats pages at Football Outsiders (with 1985 coming this offseason), but the team ratings we run here will be a bit different. Our best of the decade team ratings account for postseason performance, boosting teams that went on strong championship runs and lowering teams that dominated the regular season only to trip over their own feet in the playoffs. (Obviously the exceptions are the 2019 teams, which are only measured through the end of the regular season.)
It’s important to remember that DVOA is measuring efficiency on a per-play basis, rather than looking at top-line wins and losses. And while we are including playoff performance here, it doesn’t render the regular season moot. So we have a lot of teams ranked higher than teams that beat them in the postseason, and our top 10 overall list for this decade includes only one Super Bowl champion. Often, winning a Super Bowl is about getting hot at the right time rather than dominating the league over the course of the entire season.
Note: 0 percent DVOA represents the league average, a team with a +30 percent mark rated 30 percent better than an average unit. Also, stats other than total DVOA for each unit represent the regular season only unless noted.
This list originally included the 2019 New England Patriots when it ran after Week 15, but with a poor performance against Miami in Week 17, the Patriots dropped off and the 2015 Panthers replaced them. This team was second in the league on defense and eighth on offense, losing only one game during the regular season.
This is the first of four Seattle teams to appear in our top 10 for the decade, part of the four-year Seattle “DVOA dynasty.” From 2012 to 2015, the Seahawks finished No. 1 in our regular-season ratings each year, although they only won the Super Bowl in 2013. This 2014 team finished fifth in the league in offense and led the league on defense for the second straight season but wasn’t as good on special teams as the other DVOA dynasty Seahawks squads.
The 2010 Steelers combined the best defense in the league with the No. 5 offense, going 12-4 against a top-10 difficult schedule. The Steelers didn’t commit more than two turnovers in any game until they committed three in a narrow 31-25 Super Bowl loss. The Green Bay team that went just 10-6 in the regular season but beat Pittsburgh in that Super Bowl was ranked fourth in the 2010 regular season and has the No. 26 rating for this decade.